Real Madrid Transfers: Why the massive Matthijs de Ligt clause is not actually the key issue

Juventus, Matthijs de Ligt (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Juventus, Matthijs de Ligt (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Although Real Madrid have a team capable of winning multiple trophies in the 2021-2022 season, Madridistas are always thinking of the future. And they are, in fact, having vivid dreams of the future, thanks to a loaded 2022 summer transfer window that will include Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe as likely free agents, Erling Haaland available with a cheap release clause, and top center backs like Matthijs de Ligt and Jules Kounde potentially on the move.

There are about a handful of top center backs who could be on Real’s radar in 2022, with veteran free agent Antonio Rudiger and young LaLiga star Pau Torres also on the list. Real Madrid have two great center backs in David Alaba, signed as a 2021 free agent, and Eder Militao, but they do not have much depth beyond them.

Nacho Fernandez is solid and both Victor Chust and Pablo Ramon have potential, but Los Blancos will surely want another top option. After all, they lost both Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane this past summer, and defense has been an issue to start the 2021-2022 season.

Out of all the possible center back options for Real Madrid, nobody stands out more than Matthijs de Ligt. He is an unlikely option, but there are a number of scenarios in which I could envision him leaving Juventus in 2022. Even Mino Raiola did not completely rule this out, which is noteworthy in and of itself. 

Real Madrid would not pay the release clause for Matthijs de Ligt

The biggest impediments to signing de Ligt are his potential loyalty to Juve and his potential price tag. Let’s start with the former, since it is the easiest to explain briefly. De Ligt knows the history of Juve and would love to be the next great center back in Turin. He already acts like a leader on the pitch and quickly learned Italian to better communicate with fans, the media, and, of course, his teammates.

Now let us get to the price point. Fabrizio Romano reported that Matthijs de Ligt has a 150 million euro release clause. That means if Juve have all the leverage, they can simply point to this price instead of negotiating. And then an interested team, whether Real Madrid or Chelsea, would have to pay this eye-watering fee.

No center back has ever transferred for anything near this price, even before the pandemic. It would be unprecedented for de Ligt to go for this much money. No matter how much he has accomplished at this age and how highly rated he is, paying that much money for de Ligt would be insanity. Nobody, not even a club as rich as Chelsea, would do it.

But the release clause is more of a scare tactic. Here is the reality. Juventus are not a good club right now. After losing Cristiano Ronaldo, this team is basically being carried by Federico Chiesa in the attack, with Paulo Dybala being something of a wild card. He is a superstar if healthy but a non-factor if not. When Alvaro Morata is the third wheel of the attacking tricycle, you know you are in for a struggle.

If Juventus miss out on the Champions League, the release clause means little

There is a lot of football left to be played, but Juventus stand a very real chance of missing out on the Champions League for the 2022-2023 season. Recall that they barely made it into the top four last season despite having the league’s leading goal-scorer in Cristiano Ronaldo. With Dybala and Chiesa as the only scoring options this season, the task is difficult, though Max Allegri and Manuel Locatelli are key upgrades elsewhere that can offset the Ronaldo loss.

Still, it is conceivable for Juve to miss out on the Champions League, which would mean they need to make sales. Worse yet for them, they have not actually paid the fees for Chiesa and Locatelli, meaning they would need to have money banked to pay Fiorentina and Sassuolo over the next couple of years. They have very few sellable assets. De Ligt is their most prized possession.

Therefore, if de Ligt wants to leave and if Juve don’t make the Champions League, they could very well be forced to take the best offer on the table. Now, that offer could approach 100 million euros, but it certainly won’t be in the neighborhood of 150 million. That’s a price Real Madrid could afford. It may or may not be worth it, but my point stands. If we even get to a situation where de Ligt could leave, then the release clause won’t be a determining factor or a part of the equation. The release clause only matters if Juve remain highly successful, and Real would be banking on the opposite.

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So keep that in mind when you read more and more de Ligt rumors. Because if the de Ligt rumors have already started now, there’s real smoke here. Therefore, if Juve continue to struggle in Serie A, the flames will rise, and Madridistas will be tuned into this transfer saga with a keen interest.